“Do You Have an Employee Engagement Gap?” by Robert Half International

Feb 14, 2011 | Corporate Member News

Make sure common mistakes aren’t causing staff to become disconnected at work.

It’s certainly no secret that if you want to win customers, stay productive and beat the competition, you need to have the best and the brightest employees on your team. You may have invested a lot of time selecting the right people to hire, but what are you doing to keep them motivated now that they’re part of your company? 

If staff feel disengaged from their work, it will be difficult or impossible to achieve your business goals. You may also face turnover as people decide to leave for job opportunities they do find rewarding. 

Here are some management mistakes to watch out for that could be causing an employee engagement gap: 

Not saying thanks

For many professionals, the Great Recession meant more responsibility with little or no reward for their efforts. Thirty-seven per cent of workers polled in a recent Robert Half research project, now the topic of a white paper Workplace Redefined: Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change, said they feel they are not fairly compensated for having assumed a greater workload during the downturn. 

If business is on an upswing now, employees will be taking particular note of whether you recognize the contributions they’ve made in recent years. When possible, reevaluate compensation levels and reinstitute bonuses for those who’ve worked hard. 

If you aren’t in the position to provide financial rewards, concentrate even more on other forms of appreciation. A personal thank-you note or praise for exceeding expectations as well as additional time off or a short work day are just a few inexpensive, yet meaningful ways to recognize those who’ve made an extra effort. 

Showing no personal interest

People also want their managers to see them as individuals, not just as part of a broader team. So, make sure you’re spending time getting to know those who report to you. 

What do you know about your employees’ ultimate career goals? Are they facing personal challenges that might be affecting their work? What are their hobbies? The better you understand what motivates each of your staff members, the easier it will be to relate to them and keep them satisfied in their jobs. Reviews and other meetings provide an ideal opportunity to talk about professional objectives. 

Also ask for regular feedback about what you can do to improve the work environment. Benefits such as flexible schedules and telecommuting tend to be universally valued because they help workers achieve work/life balance. Offering these options shows you see your team not just as workers but as complete people with multiple demands. 

Keeping quiet about company news

Another common mistake that can create an employee engagement gap is hiding critical business developments from staff – either intentionally, because you believe it’s better for people not to know, or unintentionally, when you’re too busy. When employees are kept out of the loop, it creates an “us versus them” perception. 

The more freely you share company news and explain what it means for your team, the greater the connection employees will feel toward approaching changes. Even positive developments can seem threatening to staff if they get details through the grapevine. For instance, the opening of a new office might bring fears about what will happen to the current location. It’s better for you to explain plans so you can build support and answer questions. 

Think, too, about the best way to share news. While e-mail may be appropriate in some situations, in other cases, you may want to have group face-to-face meetings to allow for a more personal two-way discussion. 

Trimming back training

Reducing training opportunities may save budget dollars in the short term, but it’s also one of those moves you’re likely to eventually regret. When you originally hired your team members, chances are you chose people who were bright and ambitious. Well, those aren’t the kind of employees who are going to feel fulfilled for very long without some professional challenges. Are you doing all you can to help people build new skills and advance in the organisation? 

Consider online training, tuition reimbursement for classes, and tapping into seminars and other learning opportunities through associations.

An inexpensive option is to provide mentoring programs, with less experienced employees paired with subject experts in the company. For instance, you might have a junior accountant work with a senior accountant on mastering more advanced features of a financial application.

Playing it safe

Finally, make sure you’re not discouraging risk-taking in your group. You don’t have to plainly say, “Don’t bring me new ideas” for people to believe you prefer the status quo. If you consistently turn down suggestions or fail to implement good proposals, you’re essentially sending the same message.  

Show people you trust them to do their jobs by allowing them to take ownership of their work. They should have the freedom to move forward with projects without being micromanaged and be encouraged to try new ways of doing things. If ideas fail, help them use the outcome as a learning experience. 

When you’re kicking off new initiatives, consider holding brainstorming sessions. You’ll show you’re convinced that your employees bring a lot to the table. 

As the economy improves, companies with loyal and motivated workforces will have a real advantage. A Towers Watson study found that businesses with high employee engagement (workers being clear in job responsibilities, passionate and excelling) saw a 19 per cent increase in operating income in the one-year assessment period. Keeping staff connected to their work can be a win-win for your people – and your bottom line.

About Robert Half International

Founded in 1948, Robert Half International, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm, is a recognized leader in professional staffing services. The company’s specialized staffing divisions include Accountemps, Robert Half Finance & Accounting and Robert Half Management Resources, for temporary, full-time and senior-level project professionals, respectively, in the fields of accounting and finance; OfficeTeam, for highly skilled temporary administrative support personnel; Robert Half Technology, for information technology professionals; Robert Half Legal, for legal personnel; and The Creative Group, for advertising, marketing and web design professionals. Robert Half International has staffing and consulting operations in more than 400 locations worldwide. Find more information at http://www.roberthalf.com/, and follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/accountemps, www.twitter.com/roberthalffa and www.twitter.com/roberthalfmr.

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